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Michael Leiter, NBC News National Security Analyst, was explaining what he thought would be the most important information in the recent MH17 incident. He stated what was more important than how was who.

"The new U.S. sanctions that the president put in place a few days ago are really in response to a view that Russia has not backed down at all, it has sent troops and it has sent specially weaponry, like these surface to air missiles to the separatists,” said Leiter. “So, from that perspective, the U.S. knows he’s been doubling down, the question now for the intelligence community will be: Is there any crack in that? Does he look at this situation and say this is so bad, that there might be an off-ramp to deescalate. I don’t think that’s the most likely outcome given Putin’s background, but I think there’s at least some chance, and that’s the leadership-intention piece that the US intelligence community will try to discern over the coming days.”

At first reading, I couldn't figure out which meaning of crack he intended; I didn't understand to what he was referring. I take it he's intending this meaning of crack:

a narrow opening or fissure

If so, I'm still having difficulty understanding to what crack refers. Is it the alliance between Russia and the separatists? Or is it something else?

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"Will there be any crack in Putin's resolve to carry on with the current policy" I assume. Though based on some assumptions rather than the EL quoted. –  Martin Smith Jul 20 at 22:21
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The problematic text you mentioned is not the only odd-sounding locution in Leiter's statement. I'd also place a question mark over "leadership-intention piece" and "it has sent specially weaponry" (does he mean "it has sent special weaponry" or "it has sent weaponry specially", i.e. made a particular effort to supply weaponry?). "Off-ramp to deescalate" also sounds decidedly clumsy. Of course, few people express themselves with maximal elegance in extemporaneous speech, so one ought perhaps to allow Leiter some latitude. There may also be a transcription error in "leadership-intention piece". –  Erik Kowal Jul 20 at 23:13
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Having a chap named Leiter commenting on national security issues is almost too perfect. –  Brian Donovan Jul 21 at 0:26
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I've just listened to Leiter's interview on the NBC News page to which you linked. In that segment (which is different from the text you quoted), he mentions "intelligence piece". I infer from this that he was using some sort of security-industry jargon where 'piece' must mean, essentially, 'snippet of data'. –  Erik Kowal Jul 21 at 2:07
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@ErikKowal - I hadn't considered that some of the oddities were transcription errors. I thought specialty weaponry, but, frankly, the entirety of his comments made me feel we weren't exactly speaking the same language. I'm glad to find that others might also challenge his choice of words. –  medica Jul 21 at 2:33

3 Answers 3

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I'm assuming that the analyst's remarks were extemporaneous... My interpretation reading that passage is that crack refers to a crack in Putin's "doubling down" on his initial response to the crash.

So, from that perspective, the U.S. knows he’s been doubling down, the question now for the intelligence community will be: Is there any crack in that? Does he look at this situation and say this is so bad, that there might be an off-ramp to deescalate. I don’t think that’s the most likely outcome given Putin’s background...

If there's a crack, then there is at least a possibility that Putin could choose to deescalate the situation.

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The phrase is referring to Putin's policy,

that Russia has not backed down at all, it has sent troops and it has sent specially weaponry .... [Putin's] been doubling down

Doubling down refers to

Strengthen one’s commitment to a particular strategy or course of action, typically one that is potentially risky: he decided to double down and escalate the war [ODO]

The question, Is there any crack in that?, is asking is there a crack, a weakening, of Putin's resolve to maintain this militaristic position? To use a related idiom, Is there a chink in Putin's armor?

Effectively the author is saying,

Up until now, Putin has maintained and escalated his militaristic position. Might this event weaken his resolve and provide a possible inroad to have him back down from that position.

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I think the crack they're refering to, as in if he's missing information or not quite getting the picture.It could mean many things, but the reason I'm going with this is because, the meaning of a crack, a narrow opening or fissure, they could be using this expression 'crack' as to refer that he is missing something, like a dent in the information. Perhaps the reason he is using 'crack' is because, they are turning to the community to answer the question, 'is there any crack in this?'to see if they've missed anything. I'm not sure how to explain this, but I'm positive this is what they mean.

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